Committee on the Rights of the Child
Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Qatar *
1.The Committee considered the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Qatar (CRC/C/QAT/3-4) at its 2205th and 2206th meetings (see CRC/C/SR.2205 and 2206), held on 22 and 23 May 2017, and adopted the present concluding observations at its 2221st meeting, held on 2 June 2017.
2.The Committee welcomes the submission of the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the State party and the written replies to the list of issues (CRC/C/QAT/Q/3-4/Add.1), which allowed for a better understanding of the situation of children’s rights in the State party. The Committee expresses appreciation for the constructive dialogue held with the multisectoral delegation of the State party.
II.Follow-up measures taken and progress achieved by the State party
3.The Committee welcomes the progress achieved by the State party in some areas, including the legislative, institutional and policy measures adopted to implement the Convention, in particular Act No. 15 of 2011 on combating trafficking in persons. It further welcomes the establishment of a unit for the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities in the National Human Rights Committee.
III.Main areas of concern and recommendations
4.The Committee reminds the State party of the indivisibility and interdependence of all the rights enshrined in the Convention and emphasizes the importance of all the recommendations contained in the present concluding observations. The Committee would like to draw the State party’s attention to the recommendations concerning the following areas, in respect of which urgent measures must be taken: the definition of the child in relation to child marriage (para. 12), non-discrimination (paras. 14 and 16), nationality (para. 20), corporal punishment (para. 22), children in situations of migration (para. 34) and the administration of juvenile justice (para. 37).
A.General measures of implementation (arts. 4, 42 and 44 (6))
5. The Committee takes note of information provided by the State party ’ s delegation that the State party is currently revising its reservations to articles 2 (non-discrimination) and 14 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) with a view to withdrawing them, and in line with its previous recommendations (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2 of 2009, para. 10), as well as in the light of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, it urges the State party to withdraw its reservations, which are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.
6. Noting that the adoption of the bill on the rights of the child announced during the previous review, held in 2009, has yet to be concluded, the Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 12) and urges the State party, as a matter of priority, to review the bill in order to ensure that it is fully in line with the Convention and to take all appropriate measures to expedite its adoption and ensure its effective implementation.
Comprehensive policy and strategy
7. While noting the existence of the Qatar National Vision 2030 and its economic, environmental, human and social pillars, as well as numerous strategies and action plans indirectly related to children ’ s rights, development and welfare, the Committee is concerned that these strategies are not directly focused on children ’ s rights. It therefore reiterates its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 14) and recommends that the State party adopt a specific national strategy for children, covering all areas of the Convention, and establish evaluation mechanisms to regularly assess progress achieved and identify possible deficiencies in implementing the National Plan of Action (see CRC/C/QAT/3-4, para. 67) for corrective action.
8. With reference to its general comment No. 5 (2003) on general measures of implementation of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party continue to strengthen its mechanisms for data collection and ensure that the data and indicators are shared among the ministries concerned and used for the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programmes and projects for the effective implementation of the Convention (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 18).
Dissemination, awareness-raising and training
9. The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen its awareness- raising programmes on the Convention, including through greater media and social media engagement, in a child-friendly manner, promoting the active involvement of children themselves in public outreach activities and ensuring that measures targeting parents, social workers, teachers and law enforcement officials are taken.
Children’s rights and the business sector
10. While taking note of the development of the Qatari corporate social responsibility standards and the adoption of numerous measures relating to social responsibility, the Committee is concerned that those measures and standards lack a child perspective, and with reference to its general comment No. 16 (2013) on State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children ’ s rights, it recommends that the State party formulate and implement regulations to ensure that the business sector complies with international and national human rights and labour standards with regard to children ’ s rights.
B.Definition of the child (art. 1)
11.The Committee remains seriously concerned that the minimum age for marriage is set at 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls.
12. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 24) and recommends that the State party raise the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years.
C.General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12)
13.The Committee recognizes that the State party has initiated steps to expand education for girls, improve their safety and protect them against violence, but remains deeply concerned that they continue to be subject to multiple gender-based discrimination from the earliest stages of life, and throughout childhood and adolescence due to the persistence of adverse and traditional attitudes and norms, and that no systematic efforts have been undertaken, including with religious leaders, opinion makers, and the mass media, to combat and change discriminatory attitudes and practices.
14. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Formulate a comprehensive strategy, including a clear definition of targets and the establishment of a monitoring mechanism, to modify and eliminate negative attitudes and practices and deep-rooted stereotypes that discriminate against girls;
(b) Undertake such efforts in coordination with a wide range of stakeholders, especially girls, and involve all sectors of society, so as to facilitate social and cultural change and the creation of an enabling environment that promotes equality;
(c) Monitor such efforts and regularly assess progress made towards the achievement of established goals, and include an assessment of the results achieved in its next periodic report.
15.The Committee remains concerned that children born out of wedlock, children with disabilities and children of migrant workers continue to be subject to persistent discrimination in the State party.
16. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 26) and calls upon the State party to adopt a proactive and comprehensive strategy to eliminate de jure and de facto discrimination on any grounds and against all children, paying particular attention to children born out of wedlock, children with disabilities and children of migrant workers.
Best interests of the child
17. The Committee is concerned that many of the criteria contained in the State party ’ s legislation to determine the best interests of the child refer to conditions that must be fulfilled by adults rather than to the best interests of the child in each particular case. With reference to its general comment No . 14 (2013) on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration, the Committee recommends that the State party strengthen its efforts to ensure that this right is appropriately integrated and consistently interpreted and applied in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings and decisions, as well as in all policies, programmes and projects that are relevant to and have an impact on children. In this regard, the State party is encouraged to develop procedures and criteria based on concrete situations of children and their rights, to provide guidance and training to all relevant persons in authority on how to determine the best interests of the child in every area and give those interests due weight as a primary consideration.
Respect for the views of the child
18. With reference to its general comment No. 12 (2009) on the right of the child to be heard, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Further strengthen its efforts to inform all children of their rights under the Convention with the aim of allowing them to express their views and facilitating informed decision-making on their part;
(b) Ensure that children ’ s views are given due consideration in courts, schools, relevant administrative and other processes concerning children and in the home through, inter alia, the adoption of appropriate legislation, the training of parents and professionals working with and for children, and the development of operational procedures or protocols for such professionals to ensure respect for the views of children in administrative and judicial proceedings.
D.Civil rights and freedoms (arts. 7, 8 and 13-17)
19.The Committee remains seriously concerned that the Nationality Act does not confer citizenship to children of Qatari women and non-Qatari fathers, as it does where the father is Qatari.
20. With reference to its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 34) and those of other treaty bodies and the universal periodic review, the Committee urges the State party to review its legislation on nationality in order to ensure that nationality can be transmitted to children through both the maternal and paternal line without distinction, in particular for those children who would otherwise be stateless. The Committee also recommends that the State party consider ratifying the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons of 1954 and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness of 1961 and seek technical assistance for the implementation of these recommendations from, among others, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children ’ s Fund (UNICEF).
E.Violence against children (arts. 19, 24 (3), 28 (2), 34, 37 (a) and 39)
21.The Committee remains deeply concerned that corporal punishment is lawful and widely used in the home, alternative care settings, day care, schools and as a penal sentence.
22. With reference to its general comment No. 8 (2006) on the right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment, the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Explicitly prohibit in the bill on the rights of the child corporal punishment in all settings, including at home, at schools and in the justice system, without any exception;
(b) Ensure that the prohibition of corporal punishment is adequately monitored and enforced and that offenders are brought before the competent administrative and judicial authorities;
(c) Promote positive, non-violent and participatory forms of child-rearing and discipline at home, strengthen training on positive discipline for teachers and other professionals working with and for children and ensure that behaviour management guidelines are part of all-service training programmes;
(d) Establish a complaints mechanism so that children can safely and confidentially report persons who use corporal punishment;
(e) Launch awareness-raising programmes, including campaigns, training sessions and other activities to prevent corporal punishment and to promote a positive change in the mindset on corporal punishment in all settings.
Abuse and neglect
23. With reference to its general comment No. 13 (2011) on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence and the Committee ’ s previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, paras. 49 and 65), and taking note of target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals on ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Further strengthen awareness-raising and education programmes — including campaigns — with the involvement of children, and formulate a comprehensive strategy for preventing and combating child abuse;
(b) Establish a national database on all cases of domestic violence against children, and undertake a comprehensive assessment of the extent, causes and nature of such violence;
(c) Promote community-based programmes aimed at preventing and tackling domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, including by involving former victims, volunteers and community members, and providing them with training support;
(d) Take the necessary measures to ensure that child victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse are not treated as offenders.
24. In the light of target 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals on eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, and with reference to recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (see CEDAW/C/QAT/CO/1, para. 24) and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see CRPD/C/QAT/CO/1, para. 32), the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Establish a comprehensive domestic violence protection system, as envisaged in the State party ’ s National Development Strategy 2011-2016, and adopt specific legislation to criminalize all forms of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence and marital rape, with no exceptions and within a clear time frame;
(b) Ensure that allegations of crimes related to gender-based violence are independently and thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice;
(c) Provide regular and substantive training for judges, lawyers, prosecutors, the police and other relevant professional groups on standardized, gender- and child-sensitive procedures for dealing with child victims and on how gender stereotyping by the judiciary negatively affects strict law enforcement;
(d) Systematically collect data on violence against women and girls, disaggregated by age and relationship between victim and perpetrator.
25. The Committee urges the State party to take effective measures to eliminate child marriage and to raise awareness of its harmful effects in collaboration with the media, traditional and religious leaders and the family. The Committee further urges the State party to eliminate polygamy, which, as stated in joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2014) on harmful practices, causes emotional and material harm to children, often with serious consequences for their welfare.
F.Family environment and alternative care (arts. 5, 9-11, 18 (1) and (2), 20, 21, 25 and 27 (4))
26. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that mothers and fathers share equal legal responsibilities for the upbringing and development of their children;
(b) Ensure that all decisions concerning children taken in cases of divorce are based on the situation of the individual child and repeal all family law provisions that have a negative impact on children, such as:
(i) Those that authorize divorce, particularly in cases of repudiation without guarantees of adequate protection for the mother and the children;
(ii) Those that assign custody to a mother or to a father on the basis of the age of boys and girls, without an individual child best interests assessment;
(c) Ensure that the opportunity of the child to express his or her opinion with regard to custody after divorce should be considered as a right and not an obligation.
Children deprived of a family environment
27. While drawing the State party ’ s attention to the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Support and facilitate family-based care for all children, with no distinction on the basis of ethnic or national origin, wherever possible, and for children in single-parent families, and establish a foster-care system for children who cannot stay with their families, with a view to reducing institutionalization;
(b) Ensure adequate safeguards and clear criteria, based on both the needs and the best interests of the child, for determining whether a child should be placed in alternative care;
(c) Ensure periodic review of the placement of children in foster care and institutions and monitor the quality of care therein, including by providing accessible channels for reporting, monitoring and remedying maltreatment of children.
Children in prison with their mothers
28. The Committee recommends that the State party give primary consideration to the best interests of the child by considering alternatives to the detention of mothers and, only if such alternatives are not found, provide all the necessary human and financial resources and support to children living in detention with their mothers and provide any psychological and other support necessary to children whose parents have been sentenced to death.
G.Disability, basic health and welfare (arts. 6, 18 (3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (1)-(3) and 33)
Children with disabilities
29. While noting the adoption of th e National Health Strategy 2011- 2016, which includes an inclusive education component, and with reference to its general comment No. 9 (2006) on the rights of children with disabilities, the Committee ’ s previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 51), and the recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see CRPD/C/QAT/CO/1, paras. 16 and 44), the Committee recommends that the State party continue to promote a human rights-based approach to disability, paying particular attention to girls with disabilities and children with disabilities living outside of the city, and:
(a) Continue to collect disaggregated data on children with disabilities and develop an efficient system for diagnosing disability, which is necessary for putting in place appropriate policies and programmes for children with disabilities;
(b) Strengthen its measures to ensure that children with disabilities have access to health care, including early detection and intervention programmes;
(c) Reallocate resources from segregated educational settings towards quality, inclusive education with the provision of reasonable accommodation and individual support, accessible environments and curricula, for all students with disabilities in mainstream schools and mandatory in-service training of all teachers and staff in education facilities on quality, inclusive education;
(d) Train and assign specialized teachers and professionals to work in inclusive classes, providing individual support and assistance to children with learning difficulties;
(e) Undertake awareness-raising campaigns aimed at government officials, the public and families to combat the stigmatization of and prejudice against children with disabilities and promote a positive image of such children;
(f) Ensure safeguards to protect the rights of girls and boys with disabilities and ensure that they are consulted with regard to matters that concern them and that they receive appropriate assistance in this regard.
30. With reference to its general comment No. 4 (2003) on adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention and to the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (see CEDAW/C/QAT/CO/1, para. 40), the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Decriminalize abortion in all circumstances and ensure access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services for adolescent girls, making sure that their views are always heard and given due consideration as a part of the decision-making process;
(b) Adopt a comprehensive policy on sexual and reproductive health for adolescents and ensure that sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum, targets adolescent girls and boys and focuses in particular on the prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections;
(c) Address the incidence of drug use by children and adolescents by, inter alia, providing children and adolescents with accurate and objective information as well as life skills education on preventing substance abuse, including tobacco and alcohol abuse, and develop accessible and youth-friendly drug-dependence treatment and harm-reduction services;
(d) Strengthen its efforts to combat child obesity by regulating the marketing of unhealthy food, especially when such marketing targets children, and regulate the availability of such food in schools and other places;
(e) Develop community-based mental-health services and strengthen preventive work in schools, the home and care centres.
H.Education, leisure and cultural activities (arts. 28-31)
Education, including vocational training and guidance/human rights education
31. While welcoming the continuous efforts of the State party to promote education, the Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 57) and, with reference to its general comment No. 1 (2001) on the aims of education and the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (see CEDAW/C/QAT/CO/1, para. 34), recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen its efforts to expand non-stereotyped educational curricula, addressing the structural causes of gender-based discrimination, and diversify the educational and vocational choices of girls and boys;
(b) Develop a national plan of action for human rights education, as recommended in the framework of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
I.Special protection measures (arts. 22, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37 (b)-(d) and 38-40)
Asylum-seeking and refugee children
32. While noting the State party ’ s efforts to ensure that Syrian children have access to basic education, and commending the enhanced measures for facilitating the issuance of civil and birth registration documents to ensure that every child born in the State party is able to obtain a birth certificate, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Improve coordination between governmental and semi-governmental institutions dealing with children ’ s rights and enhance cooperation with UNHCR by signing a memorandum of understanding;
(b) Consider acceding to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Children in situations of migration
33.While noting the adoption of Law No. 21 (2015) regulating the entry, departure and residence of immigrants, which upholds the unity of the family, the Committee is seriously concerned at:
(a)The practice of the detention or imprisonment of migrant women with children in immigration detention facilities pending deportation;
(b)The impact of the situation of migrant workers, in particular female domestic workers, on the right of their children in their home countries to a family environment, particularly the fact that the sponsorship system imposed on those workers results in slavery-like working conditions, and that the confiscation of their passports and de facto restrictions on their freedom of movement limit their ability to return to their home countries, thus depriving their children of a family environment.
34. With reference to the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants contained in the report on his mission to Qatar (A/HRC/26/35/Add.1), the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Refrain from holding children and families with children in immigration detention facilities in line with the principles of the best interests of the child and of family unity; systematically employ non-custodial measures rather than detention; and establish shelters f or those categories of migrant;
(b) Take all measures necessary, in particular legislative measures, to ensure decent conditions of work for migrant workers, as well as their right to family life with their children. In this respect, the sponsorship system imposed on migrant domestic workers should be abolished without delay and the work of migrant workers, including domestic workers, properly regulated and supervised.
Economic exploitation, including child labour
35. The Committee shares the concern expressed by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2014 with regard to the economic and sexual exploitation of girls employed as domestic workers (see CEDAW/C/QAT/CO/1, para. 25), and urges the State party to ensure the effective implementation of legislation prohibiting the recruitment of children as domestic workers and to take measures to ensure that those who exploit children as domestic workers are held accountable.
Administration of juvenile justice
36.The Committee notes the information provided by the State party on the ongoing review of its juvenile justice system and that a bill on the rights of the child is currently before the Standing Committee on Legislative Matters. However, it remains deeply concerned that:
(a)The age of criminal responsibility is still set at 7 years, which is far too low;
(b)Sentences of life imprisonment, hard labour and flogging may be handed down for a number of offences committed by children over 16 years of age, as affirmed by the State party in the replies to the list of issues (para. 72);
(c)The children’s court outlined in the National Development Strategy 2011-2016 has not yet been established.
37. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CRC/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 71) and urges the State party to bring its juvenile justice system fully into line with the Convention and other relevant standards. In particular, it urges the State party to:
(a) Expedite the adoption of the bill on the rights of the child and, as a matter of urgency, raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in accordance with internationally accepted standards;
(b) Repeal all domestic legal provisions providing for life imprisonment, hard labour and flogging for offences committed by persons under the age of 18 years;
(c) Establish a children ’ s court, as outlined in the State party ’ s National D evelopment Strategy (2011- 2016);
(d) Ensure the provision of qualified and independent legal counsel to children in conflict with the law at an early stage of the procedure and throughout the legal proceedings;
(e) Promote non-judicial measures in the case of children accused of criminal offences, such as diversion, probation, mediation, counselling, or community service; and wherever possible, use alternative measures at sentencing, ensuring that detention is used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time and that it is reviewed on a regular basis with a view to its withdrawal;
(f) In cases where detention is unavoidable, ensure that children are held separately from adults and that detention conditions are in line with international standards, including with regard to access to education and health services.
Child victims and witnesses of crimes
38. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure, through adequate legal provisions and regulations, that all children who are victims and/or witnesses of crimes, for example, child victims of abuse, domestic violence, sexual and economic exploitation, abduction and trafficking, are provided with the protection required by the Convention and that the State party take fully into account the Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witness of Crime, in particular avoiding direct contact between child victims and witnesses and the alleged perpetrators at any point in the justice process and applying high standards of evidence collection.
Follow-up to the Committee’s previous concluding observations and recommendations on the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
39. While welcoming the adoption of Law No. 15 (2011) on prosecuting human trafficking, the Committee regrets the fact that its concluding observations of 2006 on the State party ’ s initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/QAT/1) have not been fully implemented and reiterates in particular its previous recommendation that the State party systematically collect data on all areas covered by the Optional Protocol and harmonize its legislation with the Optional Protocol in order to remove the requirement of double criminality to ensure extraterritorial jurisdiction. The Committee further recommends that the State party adopt measures to prevent sexual exploitation of children and child sex tourism, particularly in conjunction with the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted by the State party.
J.Ratification of the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure
40. The Committee recommends that the State party, in order to further strengthen the fulfilment of children ’ s rights, ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure.
K.Ratification of international human rights instruments
41. The Committee recommends that the State party, in order to further strengthen the fulfilment of children ’ s rights, consider ratifying the following core human rights instruments to which it is not yet a party:
(a) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty;
(b) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
(c) The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
(d) The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;
(e) The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
V.Implementation and reporting
A.Follow-up and dissemination
42. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure that the recommendations contained in the present concluding observations are fully implemented. The Committee also recommends that the combined third and fourth periodic reports, the written replies to the list of issues and the present concluding observations be made widely available in the languages of the country.
B.National mechanism for reporting and follow-up
43. The Committee recommends that the State party establish a national mechanism for reporting and follow-up as a standing government structure that is mandated with coordinat ing and preparing reports to and engag ing with international and regional human rights mechanisms , as well as with coordinat ing and track ing national follow-up to and implementation of treaty obligations and the recommendations and decisions emanating from such mechanisms. The Committee emphasizes that such a structure should be adequately and continuously supported by dedicated staff, and should have the capacity to consult systematically with the national human rights institution and civil society.
44. The Committee invites the State party to submit its combined fifth and sixth periodic reports by 2 May 2023 and to include therein information on the follow-up to the present concluding observations. The report should be in compliance with the Committee ’ s harmonized treaty-specific reporting guidelines adopted on 31 January 2014 (CRC/C/58/Rev.3) and should not exceed 21,200 words (see General Assembly resolution 68/268, para. 16). In the event that a report exceeding the established word limit is submitted, the State party will be asked to shorten the report in accordance with the above-mentioned resolution. If the State party is not in a position to review and resubmit the report, translation thereof for the purposes of consideration by the treaty body cannot be guaranteed.
45. The Committee also invites the State party to submit an updated core document, not exceeding 42,400 words, in accordance with the requirements for the common core document contained in the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents (see HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, chap. I) and paragraph 16 of General Assembly resolution 68/268.